Boca Raton Museum of Art
501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, FL 33432
In Mizner Park
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Pros and Cons of Smartphones in the Museum

Andre Gisson, Museum, 1991, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches. Permanent Collection 1992.147. From Michael and Peggy Gourgourinis and Galerie Mihalis on behalf of the artist.

A recent article in the New York Times, “From Picassos to Sarcophagi, Guided by iPhone Apps,” addressed the omnipresence of smartphones and the insatiable lust of their users for new and better apps. In this case, the topic is, what apps are useful or could potentially be useful in a museum setting?

Renowned museums like the New York Museum of Modern Art, the American Museum of Natural History and the Brooklyn Museum make use of smartphone apps to better lead their guests through the exhibitions. In general, once the app is downloaded to the mobile device (each family of smartphones require a unique platform specific app) and the user is in the building they can click through information on specific artworks. Some of the electronic information supplements the material available on the wall text, some expand the experience with audio feeds while others offer no more than what is on view in the museum.

Writer Edward Rothstein notes the differences between the more common museum audio tour equipment versus the information available via the smartphone app. In sum, he isn’t overly impressed with the apps but notes there will most definitely be improvements to come, as the programs are still in their infancy.

About the MoMa app he writes, “Moreover, apart from the audio itself, information is slight and availability inconsistent. Search for works by Warhol: some have almost no commentary; others offer excerpts from a book; others link to audio commentary. The app never got easier to use; it remained fussy and interfering. It was a relief to turn it off.”

Overall, the applications are meant to supplement the viewing experience, not detract from it. Even if the first version is a bit tedious, it is no doubt that subsequent versions will become more streamlined as time passes.

I, myself, remember wishing I could lug all of my Contemporary Art History texts into the Centre Pompidou so that I could better show my friend the genesis of video art (which I had studied at university) while we looked at each piece in the exhibition. Instead, I could only suggest some preemptory reading for the train ride, and then had to rely on my own fallible memory once we were inside. I pity anyone who owns a smartphone who dares enter a museum with me now. There is no doubt I would hijack it in the name of on-the-spot research.

Which brings us to an obvious contention that many curators must have with using applications. Curators tend to mount shows in such a way that the artworks conduct a dialogue with each other. The visitors to the show are expected to consider the layout as a whole, and then focus more finely on specific areas. For instance, what does this gallery have in common with other galleries on this floor? What is different? And then, is there a theme to the series of artworks on this wall? Or, why is this specific painting hung above that drawing? The nuances of how a show is hung could easily be lost with most of the audience’s heads bent, looking up the corresponding image on their phones. It is possible that one could miss a larger concept found in the gallery at MoMa while looking up the specifics of Francis Bacon’s biography on Wikipedia.

But, the world is moving on, as they say and we shall move with it. The BRMA has an application available for viewing on our website through a Cooliris feed or through the Cooliris app on an iphone or ipad. It presents images from the permanent collection with their provenance on a 3-D wall. This presentation allows you to either continually scroll laterally through the exhibition or step through it in a traditional slide show format. The Museum’s eGallery makes viewing the works infinitely easier.

We have not yet implemented an application on the scale of the New York museums, but a visitor can use our eGallery while in the museum to identify which artworks they would like to see as well as read wall text that accompanies the pieces. Because Executive Director George Bolge chose the artworks as if he were planning a traditional gallery exhibition a visitor can experience a contextually complete experience from anywhere in the world or use it as a guide while visiting the Museum to find some of its most cherished pieces.

What kinds of applications would you like to see available at the museum?


Posted by: Kelli Bodle, Curatorial Assistant @ 4:09:35 pm  Comments (0)
Thursday, October 14, 2010
William Kentridge Film Screening & Panel Discussion

William Kentridge: Anything is Possible (2010) 60 minutes

Saturday, October 16
Free screening and discussion in the Museum Auditorium, 2:00 PM

In collaboration with Art21, join us for the preview of the new film, William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible, prior to its public release. The documentary features Kentridge at work in his studio discussing his artistic philosophy and techniques. Viewers are privy to the mindset and creative process of the acclaimed contemporary artist, named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine, whose recurring themes include class struggle, violent oppression and social and political hierarchies.

Following the film, an engaging panel discussion with FAU Assistant Professor of Art History Dr. Karen Leader, FAU Adjunct Professor of Visual Arts Victoria Skinner, and Curator of Education Claire Clum assesses the role of the artist in society and the impact of Kentridge’s work in the art world.

Posted by: Inga Ford, Communications Specialist @ 11:16:50 am  Comments (0)
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Graphic Masterpieces from Piranesi to Picasso

The premise which guided the organization of this exhibition is that naturalism is the first example of the permeation of science into all forms of artistic expression. The narrative of this thesis will be illustrated through the graphic masterpieces of the artists of the time.  Therefore, this show begins with the realism and naturalism of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (circa 1720-78) famous for his views of the ruins of Rome and fantastic compositions of building interiors. His formidable artistic skills, bolstered by his architectural training and informed appetite for archeological detail, found full expression in imaginary studies of prisons, ruins, vaults and arcades full of highly contrasting light and dark shadows.  Art lovers appreciate his work for its remarkable flights of imagination combined with a strong practical understanding of ancient Roman technology.

These images of half-buried monuments, integrated with churches and street life and picturesque rural incursions, are compelling documents of a great city in an era when the study of antiquity was fueling the contradictory aesthetic revolution of Neoclassicism and Romanticism. However, the positive – and more important – aspect is his commitment to feeling and to his “sovereign right” of expression.

GIOVANNI BATTISTA PIRANESI (Italian, 1720-1788), The Pier with Chains, plate XVI, from the series Carceri d' invenzione [Imaginary Prisons], circa 1749, etching and engraving, 16 x 21 3/4 inches. Private collection loan

Piranesi learned a great deal from Venetian artists, especially Giovanni Antonio Canaletto, who depicted with uncanny verisimilitude, the piazzas and palazzi, churches and canals of his city.  Canaletto was able to “capture” Venetian light – a glamor born of the interplay between sky and water. Although Piranesi worked exclusively in black and white, he, nevertheless, is a master of the effects of light in his masses of deep shadow and bold areas of full sun and in the unobtrusive yet deftly sketched movement of clouds in his skies.

His work also was influenced by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s picturesque jumble of architectural and sculptural elements, and Ferdinando Galli Bibiena’s scenographic presentations and theatrical designs.

Piranesi never aimed for a pure, idealized, harmonious classicism. Although in his mature work like Carceri d’Invenzione (imaginary prisons) the spaces, simultaneously vast and claustrophobic, the parts have been jumbled – stairs and drawbridges go nowhere, arches pile up to form inescapable labyrinths, heavy chains are swagged across gulfs of space. He portrays a macabre fantasy of space and suggests a descent into the subconscious. This is the Piranesi of the dark imagination that appealed to the fantasies of the Romantics and the psychological preoccupation of the Moderns.

After his death, his sons Francesco and Pietro and his daughter Laura moved to Paris, bringing all of their father’s original plates with them (1799). In Paris, his children continued the production of his prints.

This approach to image-making in its most fully developed form was chiefly felt in Britain, Germany and France. In a narrow sense, Romanticism came to an end when it morphed into Realism of the mid-19th century. In a broader sense it is still with us since it was the insistence on the rights of the imagination that led eventually to a genuinely modern art.

The development of Romanticism to European Modernism is exemplified by the prints of the other artists selected for this show. In this context, Modernism is defined as a “mode of expression,” or a “peculiarity of style,” a workmanship characteristic of modern times. Artists such as Goya, Whistler and Arms prefer to express themselves in terms of the thoughts and events of those of the past and tradition. Starting with Cézanne, the artists that followed: Renoir, Rouault and Gauguin, chose to create in terms of the thoughts and events of their own times.

European Modernism embodied the continual dialectical struggle between rationalism and intention, or between the particular and the symbolic. In the work of Toulouse-Lautrec, Léger, Braque, Chagall and Miró, the dramatic coexistence of contradictory tendencies is intelligible only if the mind can comprehend the possibility of a conjunction of opposites within a unified expression that is capable of embodying this theoretical conflict.

PABLO PICASSO (Spanish, 1881-1973), Faune dévoilant une dormeuse (Jupiter et Antiope, d'après Rembrandt), [Faun Revealing a Sleeping Woman (Jupiter and Antiope, after Rembrandt)], 1936, etching with aquatint on paper, 12 3/8 x 16 3/8 inches. Boca Raton Museum of Art Permanent Collection 2007.5.19. Bequest of Isadore and Kelly Friedman

Pablo Picasso was an influential master who, besides participating in a characteristic movement of his own day, provided the impetus and inspiration for the distinctive trends that ensued. His work marks the real turning point toward European Modernism. From a romantic realist to Cubist, from Classicist to Surrealist, his encyclopedic nature can be fully appreciated through his personality and relation to his times.

Because of his stature as the indisputable genius of 20th century art, Picasso remains one of a handful of the most important artists in the history of Western art. When he first arrived in Paris (1900), he was influenced by Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and Van Gogh. He rented a studio at the Bateau Lavoir in Montmartre. While there he met writers, artists and his early patrons, Gertrude and Leo Stein. He produced a remarkable series of etchings, The Frugal Repast, The Saltimbanques, and Salome, which showcased his extraordinary ability to assimilate varied influences and his uninhibited will to experiment. It also was at this time that Picasso painted his epoch-making Le Demoiselles d’Avignon which released him from conventional representation.

In 1930, his interest in classical mythology, combined with his passion for bullfights, resulted in his frequent use of the subject of the Minotaur. During 1931-35, he made a series of 100 etchings, the Vollard Suite (3 portraits of Vollard were made later in 1937). An additional etching, Minotauromachy (1935) was to be used 2 years later as the inspiration for his most historically important painting, Guernica. Examples in this exhibit from this Suite, as well as from his 347 Series (1968), provided a fine opportunity to become more intimately acquainted with his creative process.

Along with his painting and sculpture, Picasso was known as well for his prodigious volume of graphic work, which can be especially rewarding to study. Because of the medium’s ability to preserve the stages of decision making on separate sheets, and because of the distinctive look of different techniques combined to create dissonant effects, it exposes the artist’s thought process with particular lucidity. This sense that every moment may be pregnant with unforeseen possibilities is what makes Picasso the archetypal modern artist.

All of the artists represented in this show were extraordinarily versatile and inventive in every phase of their work in addition to being daring and innovative in style and technique.  They all produced their most innovative work during the period from the end of the 19th century to the first quarter of the 20th, which has been referred to popularly as the birth of European Modernism. The fluidity of the boundaries between Romanticism and Modernism should be apparent in this show. Every culture sees its social and spiritual ideals mirrored in its art. Throughout history the concept of art has repeatedly undergone changes in meaning. Here is but a glimpse of this process.

Posted by: George S. Bolge, Executive Director @ 2:24:49 pm  Comments (0)
Monday, September 20, 2010
Artist in Residence

Beginning in 2008, the Museum’s Artist in Residence (AIR) has been a feature year-long program at area schools providing arts integration for teachers, staff and students in Kindergarten through 5th grade (how the visual arts functions across the curriculum.) Despite the need for more funding, the Museum has made headway implementing this unique and useful program at Plumosa School of the Arts in Delray Beach (2009-10) and Hammock Pointe Elementary School in Boca Raton (2008 and 2010-11.)

The Artist in Residence program features Catalina Aguirre Hoffman as the Artist in Residence and Lauren Shapiro as the Assistant Artist in Residence, both of whom teach the art studio class twice a week during the school year at the host school. They work on campus in a classroom dedicated to the AIR program provided by the host school. Matching the curriculum with the art in the Museum’s Permanent Collection, the Education Department then chooses the works of art to be used as inspiration for the program. Museum lesson plans are supplied to the teacher to reinforce and extend the art studio experience back into the classroom.

AIR integrates visual arts instruction with the current grade-level curriculum in content areas such as math, science, social studies and language arts. For example, if a teacher is covering African history in her classroom the Museum provides lessons plans to the teachers that are from the Museum’s African collection. These masks in the Museum’s collection serve as models from which the students can draw inspiration for their own creations as well as offer primary source material for their studies.

Art can be integrated into the classroom in other ways as well; it needn’t only be for art projects. For example, an abstract artwork can be used to display the varied degrees of angles (30°, 45°, 90°) in a math class.

The scientific method can be taught through art. During the third grade classroom project, Museum staff will reinforce states of matter via the process of chemical change. They will be given a lump of clay to weigh as their base measure. Then, the students will mold the clay and weigh again to observe any change after adding to or subtracting from the initial piece of clay. Finally, they will fire the clay in the oven and again weigh it, noting any difference after the chemical change. These results will be charted on a graph to illustrate the concepts of observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation and conclusion. As you can see, art can truly be considered a crossover subject.

When finished, the students’ art creations are installed on the school grounds. Usually, each grade’s pieces are placed in different areas of the school, from the cafeteria to the principal’s office or throughout the hallways.

As an added bonus, the AIR program is very earth conscious. Many of the items used are recycled items, which mean many have been rescued from area landfills. In fact, this point is illustrated by weighing the items used and then converting the sum into cubic feet and pounds so that the students can get a concrete idea of what has been saved from the rubbish heap.

Because some of the materials used are common household items, it is also easy for the kids to recreate the projects at home and the materials are relatively inexpensive. The program has benefited from generous benefactors but clearly with additional funding, the Museum can strengthen and further expand its educational programs. While the public schools themselves pay nothing for this vital partnership, they provide an opportunity for the Museum to connect with the youth in our community. As our mission states, the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s goal is to “enhance...the understanding of the visual arts...through the acquisition and maintenance of a permanent collection...” And what better way to do that than to take visual arts instruction directly into the classroom?

Posted by: Kelli Bodle, Curatorial Assistant @ 10:29:00 am  Comments (0)
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Museum Renovation and Spotlight on Artist Joan Fontcuberta


Hopefully you are aware, the Museum will be closed for renovations from August 8th to October 12th. We are going to highlight 40 of our most outstanding artworks from the Museum’s permanent collection in a virtual gallery. One is pictured above, the Oceanic Skull Rack. Visitors will be able to peruse these images and get a good sense of the overall collection.  This new virtual exhibition will open on August 9th, 2010 and be viewable on the Current Exhibitions page of our website.

Horizontal Suspension Hook (Skull Rack) New Guinea, Iatmul peoples, Middle Sepik River, first quarter of 20th century, wood, human hair, fiber, shells and traces of red pigment, 7 feet 6 inches long. Permanent Collection 1990.019. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stephan Lion.



Executive Director George Bolge personally chose what would be included in this exhibition – no easy task. With more than 5,000 pieces in our collection, one could spend months combing through everything. In my day-to-day work, I constantly see things in storage for which I have an affinity, and find myself wishing for more wall space in the galleries. Alas, the renovations are not to expand the museum’s square footage but rather to improve upon the existing structure.

Joan Fontcuberta (Spanish, born in Barcelona, 1955 - ), Science and Friction (landscape), 1990, b/w photograph, 14 ½ x 11 ¼ inches. Permanent Collection 1993.037. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Steinman.


In any event, I would like to highlight an artwork I find quite intriguing by contemporary photographer Joan Fontcuberta.  Fontcuberta considers himself a conceptual artist who uses the photographic medium. His work often incorporates aspects of satire and mystery into its display, often by presenting fantastical things as though they were hard fact.

An excellent example would be his 1988 exhibition in conjunction with Pere Formiguera, “Fauna” at the Museum of Modern Art. Fontcuberta and Formiguera created a massive index of historical information to support the concept of the exhibition. They displayed photographs that showed hybrids of animals (see: winged monkey with unicorn horn, or, Centaurus Neandertalensis) like those pictured at natural history museums. To further prove their existence, Fontcuberta and Formiguera displayed field notes, scientific drawings, X-rays of the animals’ bodies and finally the “real deal” taxidermy mount.

Joan Fontcuberta, Solenoglypha Polipodida, b/w photograph, image from Presentation House Gallery


Roberta Smith, New York Times art critic reviewed the show and writes, “The photographs are sepia-colored, and mysteriously murky. The field notes are written in cramped script with faded brown ink. Questions abound: where, when and by whom were these creatures sighted? We read on, and it gradually emerges that the material under scrutiny purports to be from the recently rediscovered archives of a Dr. Peter Ameisenhaufen, a German zoologist, active in the 1930's and 40's, who devoted his life to tracking down and recording the exceptions to nature's grand evolutionary scheme.”

Read the entire New York Times review, A Furry-Footed Fish and Other Gallery Rogues

The Fontcuberta photograph from our collection, a dinosaur leg propped against a wall, also evokes freakish and unsettling images. His choice of subject matter – dinosaur parts, snakes with legs and other evolutionary oddities – reveals his interest in origin theory. One is never quite sure if he is poking fun at established evolutionary and religious tropes or if he is appealing to his audience in a serious manner.

Besides questioning the many theories of our collective origins, Fontcuberta also asks us to question the veracity of the photographic medium. To be sure, all his photographs appear real, as sepia-toned vestiges of a past to which we haven’t yet been privy. Fontcuberta constructs an alternative version of the past through seemingly genuine bits of history which is at turns both vexatious and persuasive.

Related Posts: Social Change Through Art

Posted by: Kelli Bodle, Curatorial Assistant @ 4:01:09 pm  Comments (1)
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CVV2 is a security measure for credit cards. Since a CVV2 number is listed on your credit card, but is not stored anywhere, the only way to know the correct CVV2 number for your credit card is to physically have possession of the card itself. All VISA, Discover, MasterCard and American Express cards made in America in the past 5 years or so have a CVV2 number. However Diners Club does not use a security code.

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